ACLU: Why Did Alaska State Employees Block Pro-Life Protest?

State   |   Joel Davidson   |   Apr 12, 2013   |   3:59PM   |   Juneau, AK

The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska has asked the Governor’s Office and the Alaska Department of Administration to release public records regarding how and why official vehicles from the Department of Administration blocked a peaceful pro-life protest on April 2 outside the Capitol in Juneau.

Video footage taken by the demonstrators shows vans from the state’s Department of Administration and the Legislature blocking the protestors from being seen.

The demonstrators stood in front of the state capitol building in Juneau on April 2-3, holding graphic images of aborted children as state lawmakers debated legislation in the Senate that would limit state funding for some abortions.

The state Court System requested that the demonstrator’s signs — which violate no law — be hidden on April 2. The Legislature made the same request the next day, according to Governor Parnell.

After parking, one of the employees is seen in a video telling the pro-life protesters, “Just doing what I was told. Sorry.”

“The First Amendment comes first for a reason: we will vigorously defend the right of all activists to peacefully protest and present their views,” said Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska in an April 9 press release.

“While we support a woman’s constitutional right to reproductive choice, everyone has the right to peacefully protest,” he added, “and the government may not pick and choose who gets to speak.”

Governor Parnell issued a statement criticizing the harassment of the pro-life advocates.

“It was totally inappropriate that employees of the Department of Administration, the Court System and the Legislature were involved in parking state vehicles in front of the peacefully assembled demonstrators, who were violating no state law,” Governor Parnell said in a public statement. “I have given direction to the Department of Administration to ensure this does not happen in the future unless public safety is at risk or the rule of law violated. I urge the Legislature and the Court System to do the same for their employees.”

“We are happy that Governor Parnell said this censorship was ‘totally inappropriate,’ and we agree, but we still need to know how and why the Department of Administration thought that it was okay to park its vehicles in front of these peaceful protestors,” ACLU Director Mittman stated.

The ACLU’s public records requests asks for information about policies that led the Department of Administration to block these protestors.



“We want to know why some state employees thought this was the right thing to do,” said Joshua A. Decker, the ACLU of Alaska attorney, “and we want to make sure that the State is writing new procedures to make sure this is the last time Alaska blocks free, peaceful speech.”

Under Alaska law, the Governor’s Office and the Department of Administration have 10 working days to respond to public records requests. Note: Joel Davidson is the editor of the Catholic Anchor, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska. This article originally appeared there and is reprinted with permission.